Rethinking Feminist Activism Assignment: Digital Storytelling
Professor Nancy Janovicek – Class: HTST 438 History of Women in Canada – Department of History – University of Calgary
This group assignment was created during the Covid-19 Pandemic to alleviate the isolation of on-line instruction and learning. I designed this group assignment so that students would get to know a few other people in the class. Students who worked together on the digital storytelling project were also in the same discussion group.
This project was inspired by The Heroes of the Suffrage Movement: Finish the Fight, a production on the US suffrage movement that tells this history through the biographies of Indigenous, Latinx, Black, and Chinese American women who have been ignored in popular histories of the suffrage movement to rethink history.
I asked students to use the methodology of digital storytelling to rethink feminist activism in Canada. Digital story-telling presents stories of people who are often ignored in popular and well-known depictions of the past. They present the history through a biography or life story to make connections between individual lives, politics, and social change. Videos use voiceover and images to present the story.
There were two sets of assignments. The first five groups examined the history of suffrage using the biographies of these activists: Mary Anne Shadd Cary, Helena Gutteridge, Edith Anderson Monture, Kang Tongwe & Hideko Hyodo Shmizu, and Elsie Marie Knott. The other groups examined feminist activism in the late twentieth century using the records of organizations in the RiseUp! Feminist Archive: Indian Rights for Indian Women, Congress of Black Women, Wages Due Lesbians, Abortion Caravan (Vancouver Women’s Caucus), and INTERCEDE.
I assigned activists and organizations that demonstrate that, although white, middle-class women were the dominant voices in the women’s movement, feminist activism has always been diverse. I chose organizations that fought for the rights of women marginalized by race, class, and sexuality. Students ended their presentations by answering the following questions. Why is this story not known? Why should it be? How does this women’s/organization’s history challenge what we know about the feminist organizing, coalition-building, and grassroots politics?
Stories of feminist activism
Diversity of feminist activism
Women marginalized by race, class, and sexuality
Social Justice Media Assignment
Dr. Marusya Bociurkiw – Class: Social Justice Media – School of Media – Ryerson University
RTA 893 Social Justice Media is a mixed undergrad and graduate course that examines ways that media can be used to address social justice issues. The course has three modules: 1) neoliberal university, 2) disability justice, 3) feminist/queer/ Black archives/counter archives. The course’s main assignment involves small groups of students collaborating with community activists, activist-academics, and activist artists selected by the professor. The collaborators come to class and pitch their research/artistic projects. The students select the collaboration of their choice and then must liaise with their community collaborator to come up with a creative/scholarly solution to the research question or problem being addressed by their community partner. The class concludes with a social justice media fair normally held in the atrium of our building, the Rogers Communication Centre. Collaborators, friends and the general public attend. This year (2020) we held a smaller version of the fair, and all collaborators were present, which resulted in a vibrant discussion.
Media & social justice
Community activist collaboration
Social justice fair
Second year undergraduate
Feminist Theory & Activism Assignment
Dr. Lisa Boucher – Class: Discovering Feminist Thought – Department of Gender & Women’s Studies – Trent University
This assignment directs students to the Rise Up! archive as a resource for learning about the relationship between feminist thought and activism. It was a part of a required second year course in Gender & Women’s Studies called Discovering Feminist Thought. In this course, students learn about the evolution of feminist theory and explore links to feminist organizing and social change. Throughout the semester, we consider how feminist thinkers have explained social inequalities, imagined alternatives and strategized for greater social justice. Key learning outcomes in this course include the ability to understand connections between feminist theory and activism, and to apply course content to historical and current events.
Evolution of feminist thought
Connections between theory and activism
Third year undergraduate
Rise Up! Action Assessment
Dr. Simon Granovsky-Larsen
University of Regina, International Studies 303, “Social movements and alternatives to global capital”
This assignment was given at the end of a course section focused on social movement strategies and tactics, which were explored in large part using the book Beautiful Rising: Creative Resistance from the Global South. Beautiful Rising is intended as a handbook for successful grassroots organizing, and it doubles as a fantastic introduction to the inner workings of social movements. The full text of the book, along with its companion Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, is available online in interactive format. Students approached the assignment from a place of familiarity with social movements, then, but without much background on second wave feminism or Canadian women’s movements. They were encouraged to spend a few hours exploring and reading in the Rise Up! archives, and that experience produced a number of outcomes: the students learned about women’s movements through their own, self-guided learning; they were introduced to the process of archival research (which opened up some interesting conversations later on, both about methods and about the importance of first-hand perspective in primary texts); and they were able to apply their other learning about social movements into some critical assessment.
Strategies and tactics
Second year undergraduate
Women Rise Up: Toronto/Canada Socialist and Radical Women’s Magazines Archive
Dr. Anup Grewal, Class: Women, Power, Protest – Department of Historical and Cultural Studies – University of Toronto
These two assignments using the riseupfeministarchive.ca were part of a second year course in Women and Gender Studies called Women, Power, Protest. The course took a broad approach, examining different individual and collective actions and/or reflections on those actions that spoke to the theme of ‘women, power, protest.’ I was interested in having students think about the relationship among those terms in a complex manner, as well as recognizing ‘protest’ to be varied in form, content and medium. The goal was to have students develop a critical lens as well as a celebratory understanding of all forms of ‘women’s protest’.
The assignment on the publications section of the Rise Up archive offered students a concrete body of activist work, and a concrete form (print media) to study. The students enjoyed browsing through the archive and were interested in the historical perspective the magazines provided. They were often surprised that ’women back then’ were discussing the issues they were. The group work presentations went very well, and students shared their sense of discovery of the different types of content and form expressed in the magazines.
‘Women, power, protest’
Current and historical topics
Individual and collective actions/reflections
Protest varied in form, content and medium
Researching Feminism and Collective Action
Professor Meg Luxton – Class: Feminism, Political Citizenship and Collective Action – The Glendon School of Public and International Affairs – York University
This assignment using the riseupfeministarchive.ca was part of a Master’s level graduate course called Feminism, Political Citizenship and Collective Action. The course was cross-listed between The Glendon School of Public and International Affairs and the Graduate Program of Gender, Feminist and Women’s Studies, York University. The course explores the relationship between feminist political organizing and mobilizing and public policy in different contexts. One of the central goals of feminism is to win full political citizenship for all women. This course explores the ways in which feminists have organized collectively to advance their demands, the different understandings they have about what political citizenship is and could be, and the various strategies and tactics they have mobilised.
The course examines contemporary (English language) feminist theories relating to concepts such as political citizenship, democracy, human rights, liberation, social justice, and political activism and it studies how the multifaceted feminist movement engages in actions of resistance, protest, and demands over the definition/redefinition of meanings generally attributed to these concepts and over the social relations they reflect and shape.
Actions of resistance & protest
Definition/redefinition of meaning
Feminist political organizing
Third year undergraduate
Feminist Media Assignment
Professor Meg Luxton – Class: Women Organising – The School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies – York University
This assignment using the Rise Up Archive was part of a third year undergraduate course in the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.
This course looks at different ways that women have organised collectively, as women, to improve their lives. At different times and in different places, women have organised in and against revolutionary, nationalist, anti-colonialist and transnational movements; trade unions, autonomous women’s movements, queer movements and mainstream political institutions; states, schools, workplaces, communities, and religious institutions; public and private spaces. The course asks how their issues and strategies reflect diverse concerns based on gender, racialisation, class, ability and sexuality, as well as different political orientations.
The course also looks at organising for economic justice and human rights; engagements with the state and government around representation and public policy; organisational strategies, such as separate structures, democratization and cyber/digital feminism; women’s involvement in international and transnational movements; and anti-feminist organising. It asks what is meant by activism and advocacy, alliances and solidarity. It analyses and assesses different political strategies and invites students to explore effective ways of organising in the current period.
Diverse concerns within feminisms
Analysis of print media
Identifying concerns and goals